Sunday 20 November 2022

Streaming on Netflix - THE MURMURING (Jennifer Kent, USA, 2022) - An episode in Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities

Guillermo del Toro

Thanks to David Hare who drew my attention to this little movie.

You go where the wind blows and for Jennifer Kent, who has made two highly regarded features The Babadook (2014)  and The Nightingale (2018)  but nothing else on the record since then, fate  has blown her into the arms of Guillermo del Toro for whom she has written and directed a one hour “teleplay” for the eight part series Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities now screening on Netflix. Del Toro's appearance introducing the show is the last of him though it did hit a memory trace that took me all the way back to his remarkable debut feature Cronos (1993)


The Murmuring  stars Essie Davis and Andrew Lincoln. Del Toro himself wrote the story which Kent has adapted into a near two hander.

Essie Davis, Andrew Lincoln, The Murmuring

It’s set on an island of Nova Scotia in 1951 and two ethnographers (?) Nancy and Edgar arrive to study the local population of a bird called a dunlin. These are famous for their ability  ("is it mental telepathy?") to form enormous swarms all flying in elaborate patterns. Things are a little tense between them and Nancy has lost interest in sex, indeed in just about any kind of emotional warmth. From a hint at the start we know there’s a deep dark secret that is going to come out. 


While you expect it to happen, the mechanics of it  don’t come out until we go through a series of incidents which suggest that the couple, otherwise alone on the island, are living in a haunted house. But only Nancy hears and sees the signs and…go no further. Not being an aficionado of this sort of material I cant say whether others might find this all too predictable. But for mine, as medium length modest movies go, this is very good indeed and helped immeasurably by the performances of Davis and Lincoln.


The series has eight stories, only one other of which is based on Del Toro’s story material. Sources are as varied as stories by H P Lovecraft, an original script and a web comic. Five ‘young’ male directors and three female directors do the hard yakka. Netflix has given the film (or maybe the series) its own “R” rating but that is way beyond the gentle and very clever storyline.

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